This or That: 7 Peppery Basil Substitutes To Consider

Basil is an exquisite herb that adds a glorious taste and aroma to the dish. However, fresh basil isn’t always easy to find. Thus, it is nice to have a good basil substitute at hand. Moreover, I love cooking Italian food so much, so I have had my fair share of no-basil days.

Thus, today’s blog will deal with the best basil substitutes for you to try. However, let’s talk a little about this herb before getting into other details.

What is basil?

Basil is a culinary condiment that is used in cuisines worldwide. However, it is particularly famous for Italian-style cooking and Mediterranean foods.

basil substitutes

How many varieties of basil are there?

There are four main types of basils. Namely:

Sweet basil: also known as Genovese basil after the birthplace of pesto; Genoa. It is quite common in Europe and North America.

Holy or Hot Basil: this variety is native to India and Southeast Asia. It is particularly famous in Thailand, largely due to its wonderful hot basil stir fry. It has a spicy clove-like taste.

Thai Basil: Speaking of Thailand, Thai basil is another kind of basil. It has a hint of anise or licorice-like flavor.

Lemon basil: this is another kind of basil that also originated from southeast Asia. However, unlike hot basil, it has a lemon-like pop of flavor.

How can I store basil?

If you want to store basil stems for a few days, it is best to put them in a jar or glass of water, just like you would put flowers in a vase. However, if you have to store for longer than that, it is better to place the leaves in a plastic bag or a cloth wrap.

Is basil good for health?

Yes, basil has a plethora of health benefits such as:

  1. It reduces the risk of losing memory due to aging or stress.
  2. It also reduces the risk of developing cancer due to chronic stress.
  3. It aids in maintaining normal blood pressure, especially for people with hypertension.
  4. It works as natural aspirin and dilates blood vessels and thin blood.
  5. It prevents certain cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
  6. Improves tooth and gum health by preventing the growth of dental decay-causing bacteria.

Where can I use basil herb?

Basil has a lot of uses in the kitchen, such as:

  1. You can use it to season or garnish your dish.
  2. You can use it to add flavor and color to your salad.
  3. You can add it to sauces or make a sauce from it, e.g., pesto sauce.


What are the best basil substitutes?

Basil is very hard to replace. However, my favorite substitutes are:

1. Oregano

We have seven substitutes for basil, but which is the best one? The answer is oregano. It has an extremely vibrant taste both in dried and fresh form. Therefore, you can use it in either form and still get the desired taste.

basil substitutes - Oregano


2. Tarragon

Tarragon is not a very famous herb. But, it is commonly used in French cuisines. It presents notes of anise and licorice upon taste. However, once again, the flavor profile is not quite the same. Therefore, it is more of a hit or miss alternative.

basil substitutes - Tarragon

But if you love French food, it is the right option for you. Use this versatile herb in a pinch, and it will do wonders for your dish. I loved using this basil substitute in tomato soup and creamy sauces. Use dried or fresh tarragon in the same amount as your recipe requires.


3. Mint

Mint is from the same family as basil. Therefore, there are a lot of similarities to this one. Now you may wonder why it isn’t higher up on the list? Despite being a good substitute, you cannot use this basil substitute in cooking, especially in heat-based foods.

basil substitutes - Mint

Take spearmint or peppermint, for example; they are excellent basil substitutes for cold foods like ice cream or desserts. Fresh mint is an excellent basil substitute in bruschetta and crostini. On a side note, peppermint is a better substitute than spearmint if you like the peppery flavor of basil.


4. Spinach Leaves

Are you also thinking of Popeye like I am? Undoubtedly, this elixir of strength and nourishment has educated an entire generation on the importance of greens. However, that is not the only reason spinach is a good substitute for basil.

basil substitutes - Spinach Leaves

Spinach leaves are a great basil substitute in pesto sauce. Not everyone, especially children, enjoys the intense taste of basil. Therefore, you can tone it down without compromising on the texture and appearance of your sauce by using spinach leaves.

Spinach leaves have high water content, just like basil, and a similar vibrant green color too. If you are unsatisfied with the flavor, you can use a miser amount of basil to give the pesto sauce a mild tang.

Furthermore, you can add spinach leaves to stir-fries or Thai dishes to make a flavorful meal without overpowering the main flavor.


5. Italian Seasoning

Are you making an Italian dish without basil? The best choice is to use Italian seasoning instead. Italian seasoning consists of parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, pepper, and, of course, basil. Italian seasoning is your perfect basil substitute in pasta.

basil substitutes - Italian Seasoning

Now, if you decide to use this substitute, make sure to check the rest of the recipe to balance out other ingredients. For example, if your recipe calls for thyme, and you are using Italian seasoning that already contains thyme. You might want to decrease its amount by a little.


6. Celery Leaves

Celery is a vegetable known for its stalks. Moreover, more often than not, the leaves are never used. So if you have celery at home and don’t want to waste the leaves, you can use them as a fresh basil substitute to make pesto.

basil substitutes - Celery Leaves

In addition, it does not carry the overwhelming taste of basil leaves. However, celery leaves sufficiently manage to attain the bright green color. This way, you can contribute to conserving nature by saving food.


7. Parsley

Parsley is your good-for-everything herb. It has a great taste and works well in most dishes. However, it does not exactly replicate the vibrant peppery taste of basil. It is bound to improve the flavor of your dish in its own way.

basil substitutes - Parsley

You can find this herb in either dried or fresh form. However, I suggest buying it fresh since the dried herb is very mild. Fresh parsley is an excellent substitute for fresh basil. You can also benefit from its bright appearance and top your pasta, pizza, or meatballs with it.


Fresh Basil Vs. Dried Basil Substitutes

Fresh Basil Dried Basil
Oregano Fresh basil
Spinach Dried oregano
Mint Italian seasoning
Cilantro Tarragon


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute rosemary for basil?
Yes, you can. Use equal amounts of fresh or dried rosemary to substitute dried basil or fresh basil.
Is parsley better than basil?
If we consider the nutrition content of basil and parsley, the answer is obviously parsley. It is way more healthy than basil; therefore, it will make your dish more nutritious. I once again find parsley a better option on the culinary end as it is way more versatile than basil.
What is the dried equivalent of 1/2 cup fresh basil?
You can use two tablespoons of dried basil to substitute ½ or a half cup of fresh basil.

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